We should have paid more attention to the cat. That was the first sign. She went on scuttle watch, crouched down beside the kickboard under the kitchen cupboards. She sat there for hours, not moving, just watching. Listening. She heard them, she knew it was dangerous. Sometimes she tried to get our attention and wound her way around out legs, pulling us closer to the cupboards, with a short sharp miaow. We all dismissed it. I wasn’t the only one. Either she loved us or she wanted more food. That’s what we thought.
But then they came out. And not just one or two but fifty, a hundred. Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle. All over the floor. And they weren’t normal bugs, where you turn on the light and they vanish back into their crevices, as if they’ve never been. They stayed, waving their antenna and rubbing their front feet together, leisurely making their way back to the cupboards in their own time. Even the cat wouldn’t attack them. She stayed at the threshold of the kitchen door, watching, assessing the enemy. And then she disappeared. At the time we cursed her for leaving us, running away when she could have stayed, and then cursed her for doing nothing even though subconsciously we knew that she was the one who was protecting us. Now it seems obvious that she didn’t disappear – she was disappeared. They took her first, swarmed all over her tortoiseshell fur and found a spot they could bite, infected her. Her tiny body would have been overwhelmed by it, her limbs convulsing, mouth frothing, and her instincts would have driven her to find a quiet place, a dark place, somewhere to curl up and die.
With the cat gone, it was only a matter of time before they came for us.
(Prompt from Leah Petersen’s Five Minute Fiction. Might or might not be inspired by the possibility of having a real life scuttley thing in my kitchen.)